In 1967, radios around the world echoed the chorus to what would become one of the most famous songs in music history: “All you need is love. All you need is love. All you need is love, love. Love is all you need.” Penned by John Lennon, the Beatles simple message served as a slogan, an anthem for its time. According to their manager, Brian Epstein, “It was an inspired song and they really wanted to give the world a message. The nice thing about it is that it cannot be misinterpreted. It is a clear message saying that love is everything.”These days, the world needs love more than it has in generations. In a time where masks hide our smiles and Zoom happy hours have taken the place of after work drinks with friends, it’s love that makes hardship bearable. And for us, it gave us the theme for a relaxing, socially distanced road trip: a visit to some of Virginia’s Loveworks signs.
Virginia is for Lovers has long been recognized as the Old Dominion’s slogan, and the Commonwealth’s famous Love signs welcome visitors to historical spots and small towns at almost every turn. With our typical weekend trips to Virginia wineries, Old Town Alexandria, and Charlottesville postponed until travel is safe again, we took a few hours to enjoy a self-created scavenger hunt to collect photos of Loveworks signs within a short drive from our home in Northern Virginia. The sunshine, the fresh air, and the signs reminding us that love triumphs over everything—even COVID-19—were just what we needed.
Virginia is for Lovers: How a State Found an Identity
One of the most recognized slogans in the country, Virginia is for Lovers was born in an advertising agency more than 50 years ago. Initially conceived by David N. Martin and George Woltz of Martin and Woltz, the Virginia Tourism Corporation adopted the slogan in 1969—just two years after the Beatles famous tune shared a similar theme. Originally, the slogan was presented to reflect more specific types of state love, including Virginia is for History Lovers and Virginia is for Beach Lovers; the slogan was simplified and broadened to welcome lovers of all things Old Dominion and incorporated into tourism campaigns to attract visitors. Today, you’ll find Virginia is for Lovers reflected everywhere from license plates to signs to artwork, and that’s how the Loveworks program came into existence.
The Loveworks program inspires local communities to create their own Love signs, which boost slogan awareness and serve as a powerful reminder that there is so much to love about Virginia. You can learn a lot about the state through the Love signs you encounter; they reflect the great outdoors, artistic communities, and the personalities of the people who call Virginia home.
The movie “Love Actually” had a great quote that seems particularly relevant when you visit Virginia:
Nowhere is that statement more true (or literal) than in the Commonwealth of Virginia!
Loveworks Road Trip: Visiting the Virginia Love Signs
There are more than 200 Loveworks signs throughout the state, and while we have always been happy to see them while passing through communities en route to a destination the signs themselves have never been our destination. I pondered this as I painted a piece of bread with peanut butter, a last-minute make-shift lunch for our road trip. Ordinarily, a day trip would also include a stop at a local Virginia restaurant, but that’s not in the cards for us this time around. All restaurants are limited to carry out and delivery, and many have shuttered completely. The peanut butter sandwiches had to suffice, although I added a bit of marshmallow fluff as a nod to my New England roots.
► Loveworks at the Lorton Workhouse Arts CenterAdam spent time researching Virginia Love signs in open public spaces, a chance for us to explore while ensuring we could keep a safe social distance from others with the same idea. The former location of the Lorton Reformatory has a new life as an art studio and exhibition space. It has been open to the public for more than a decade, and while it was quiet during our visit it’s often alive with creative professionals breathing life into the collection of buildings through the full spectrum of styles and mediums. When we arrived in Lorton to see the Loveworks at the Workhouse Arts Center we were glad to see others photographing the sign and playing games in small, distanced groups in the open space behind it. As we admired the sign, a tribute to the melting of different cultures, it was a nice reminder that even though we’re distanced, we’re still part of a big community.
► Virginia Love Signs in Fredericksburg
It’s hard to miss the Virginia Love sign in front of the rest station in Fredericksburg. Just off I-95 and visible from the freeway, during busy weekends we’ve become used to seeing children hanging off the letters as parents take pictures, capturing a moment that might represent the start of a summer vacation or eventually be framed and placed on a mantle just because of the message held within the four letters. On this day the rest area was empty, and the letters looked a bit lonely without anyone to pose by them. Then again, perhaps they needed the rest; after all, when social distancing is over they will once again serve as a backdrop to an almost endless string of photos.Fredericksburg is a lot more than the rest stop; in addition to having multiple Civil War battlefield parks, the town is also full of local shops and restaurants that contribute to its charm. We stopped to see the Love sign at Hurkamp Park, parking just around the corner from the James Monroe Museum and Memorial Library as well as multiple stores that will be worth a day trip when we’re open for business again. We took a few photos of the sign that reflects the city’s history and culture while trying not to disturb a man receiving a private yoga lesson from an instructor positioned safely away from him. The park was a beautiful, peaceful place to pause for a few moments, another Virginia spot we were glad to discover for ourselves.
► Loveworks at the Beach
Our day trip to see the Virginia Love signs took us to the coastline next, and the Loveworks at Dockside Restaurant in Colonial Beach is everything you would expect from a tropically themed hangout: flipflops, palm trees, and a beach ball contribute to the letters that spell out LOVE. While Adam took a few pictures, I turned toward the beach itself, looking out at the Potomac River that spills into the Chesapeake Bay not too far from the restaurant. We were the only ones there that day, certainly a rarity for a Saturday, but it was nice to enjoy the scenery in the unexpected quiet. I realized we often prioritize Virginia Beach in the warmer months, but Colonial Beach is closer to our home and it has plenty of charm. It makes me look forward to a return trip, one with warmer weather when the Dockside Restaurant Tiki Bar will be full of music, laughter, and good times.
► Virginia is for Wine and Oyster Lovers
As our road trip began to wind down, we drove to see the Lovework in the Town of Montross. Of all of the Virginia Love signs we saw, this one made me smile the most. In addition to a waterman boot and a shark’s tooth, the sign features an oyster shell and a wine bottle, a nod to two of our favorite ways to pass time when we’re home. We’ve enjoyed many oysters paired with local Virginia wines over the years, notably during the annual Chesapeake Bay Wine Trail Oyster Crawl, and some of my favorite memories stem from getting to know more about my home state through the food and drinks produced here. Virginia is the largest source of both wild and farmed oysters in the country, and they have ties to the earliest days of the state’s existence. Oysters pair perfectly with crisp, young white wines, and we’ve been proud to share our knowledge with guides on wine tours we have taken around the world. As I stood in front of the Love sign in Montross, I remembered a moment in Uruguay when Adam and I had the chance to tell a knowledgeable sommelier about Virginia’s native Norton, a wine he hadn’t heard of but immediately began to research. I was proud to add Virginia to a conversation about unique and interesting wines in the world, another reason to love living in the Old Dominion.We stopped in Culpeper to see the Loveworks at Culpeper Depot, which is a tribute to the town’s growing arts community. A few other families passed through for photos as well, pausing to notice the fact each letter is filled in with film reels. Created by Roque Castro, it was Culpeper’s first art installation when it entered the scene in 2012. Not too far away, we had the chance to combine a visit to a Virginia Love sign with an errand: we stopped by Morais Vineyards to pick up a wine club shipment. Morais also has a Loveworks sign as a huge, unmissable welcome to the picturesque setting they call home. We’ve driven past the sign numerous times on our way for a tasting or to meet friends for an afternoon of sunshine and wine, and like all of the Loveworks, this Love sign takes on new meaning these days.
► Virginia is for Love & Hope
The last Virginia Love sign we saw was perhaps the most appropriate. In downtown Manassas, right by the train station, a large Loveworks sign has always served as the backdrop when we’ve stopped by for dinner at C.J. Finz or Katerina’s. Recently, the sign was modified by Olde Town Landscaping to read Love and Hope. It was an unexpected discovery and an added ray of light for us; Virginia is full of love, but there is plenty of room—and need—for hope right now, too. The addition to the Love sign will remain in place until the end of 2020, but the message won’t soon be forgotten.
Create a Loveworks Day Trip!
If you’re planning to visit some of the Loveworks signs throughout Virginia, the Virginia tourism website is an excellent resource for finding them and plotting out a route from your home or hotel. The Google Map of the Loveworks locations they created is enormously helpful, and you can view it below.
You can also visit the Virginia tourism website to learn more about the Loveworks.
More Information: Virginia.org/Love
Loveworks in Virginia
With so many Love signs throughout the state, creating a socially distanced road trip can be a fun way to incorporate a scavenger hunt into your weekend while learning more about the Old Dominion through the artwork that represents it. When restrictions are lifted, the Loveworks signs will still be there, but adding a few local restaurants, shops, or museums to your day will make an even more memorable and well-rounded experience.
In lives so full of commutes, meetings, conference calls, long shifts, and making dinner, it can be so easy to forget that how connected we are. Our communities are rich with art, history, and stories that unite us. Virginia’s Love signs are a powerful tribute to the communities that are as much a part of us as we are of them. Our scavenger hunt was a needed reminder of that fact, and it inspired us to bookmark our journey so we can retrace our steps when travel—even local travel—is safe in the future.
Wherever you are, and whatever community you call home, we hope you take some time to plan how you can get to know your community in a new way. If you, like us, are lucky enough to call Virginia home, the Loveworks signs are a great introduction to parts of the state you might know little about and the people who make each community a wonderful place to live.
Virginia is, indeed for lovers—history lovers, wine lovers, outdoors lovers, and happiness lovers. And that’s good news for us, because the Beatles are still right after all these years: all you need is love. Love is all you need.
We always enjoy writing about our home state of Virginia! Here are a few more places we’ve written about.